THE PBA Philippine Cup Finals is not just going to be all about San Miguel and Alaska, two of the winningest franchises in the history of Asia’s first ever play-for-pay league.
The spotlight is likewise expected to fall on Beermen mentor Leo Austria and former deputy Alex Compton, now the man at the helm of the Aces.
The best-of-seven title series is the first time Austria and Compton face each other in a championship showdown since their brief coaching partnership at Welcoat (now Rain or Shine) during the team’s maiden season in 2006-07.
Austria was the one tapped by team owners Raymund Yu and Terry Que to guide the ballclub in its rookie year, with Compton serving as one of his assistants along with Caloy Garcia, who remains with the franchise until now as top deputy of coach Yeng Guiao.
While the partnership didn’t last as the two parted ways nearly a decade ago, the 56-year-old Austria admitted he is happy to see the young American mentor get a break and lead Alaska to the finals of the all-Filipino Cup in only his second conference with the Aces,
“(Since parting ways from Welcoat) I never saw him (Compton) coach a team till naging assistant coach siya ng Alaska. But I was surprised when he became head coach and at this conference, kitang kita, at very glaring yung nagawa niya sa Alaska because I think Alaska is the most conditioned team sa PBA,” Austria said.
The Beermen only lost twice this conference, and one of those losses was inflicted by the Aces, 66-63, last November 5. The 63 points of San Miguel was the team’s lowest output for the season.
The grindout win, according to Austria, was a testament to Compton’s attention to detail and desire of the players to stick to his system.
“After siya dun sa discipline ng players when it comes to running a play and execution. Ako ganun din because we want to be deliberate,” explained the San Miguel coach, who was once the league’s Rookie of the Year.
“Si Alex as a player, ayaw niya ng bara-bara eh. Happy kami sa isa’t isa nung magkasama kami kasi gusto niya well-organized. Noticeable yan during the games kasi gusto niya yung player maglalaro sa system niya, at malaki ang pinagbago ng team nila,” Austria noted.
And having known Compton from the time he began his coaching career, Austria expects the series against the Aces as no walk in the park for the Beermen.
“Huli kami nagsama mga 2007, seven years ago, and many things have happened. May idea siya on my knowledge of basketball at si Alex, alam niya ang in and out ng basketball sa Pilipinas. Pati culture alam niya. Parang di siya Amerikano,” he said.
“Nasasabi niya na student ko siya because naging assistant ko siya, pero sa laro, punong puno siya at nai-ta-translate niya yun sa laro.”